THE RAILROADS OF LANCASTER COUNTY, NEBRASKA
When one contemplates the many lines of steel railroad which cross Lancaster County in every direction, the
fact that fifty years ago there was not a mil laid within the present boundaries of the county causes one to marvel
at the progress of which man is capable. Lincoln at the present time is equally well equipped with railroads as
any city in the Middle West. The citizens of the county have always aided the railroad corporations to construct
the roads through this territory because they realized the economic benefit which would result from close railroad
connection with other points in the country. The amount of shipping, both in and out of the city, depends in great
measure upon the railroad facilities and, as Lincoln has quick access to trade in every direction, the advantage
has brought about a corresponding increase in every line of business.
The Legislature of 1869 started by appropriating 2,000 acres of land to each mile of railroad constructed within
the state in two years. Four roads were begun accordingly. The first was the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad
which started from Plattsmouth; the second was the Atchison and Nebraska from Atchison, Kansas; the third, the
Midland Pacific from Nebraska City; and the fourth the Omaha and Southwestern, from Omaha. Later all of these roads
were consolidated under one system. The Burlington and Missouri River road was given bonds to the extent of $50,000.00
on the condition that they would build their road through the county. Then the Atchison and Topeka was voted county
bonds to the amount of $120,000.00 and the Midland Pacific was given a bonus of $150,000.00. The latter road, on
the strength of the large amount voted them, agreed to locate their car shops in Lincoln, but never fulfilled it.
The road was built, though, as far as York and the county was greatly benefited.
In 1879 the citizens of the city and county gave the Lincoln and Northwestern Railroad Company $25,000.00 in bonds
for the start of the line to Columbus. No sooner had this line been started than the Union Pacific Railroad Company
extended a road from Valparaiso in a southerly direction until Beatrice was reached. Between 1876 and 1878 the
Burlington and Missouri River Company began a policy of extension which rapidly made it the greatest system in
the state. The Nebraska railway was leased and serveral branches promoted. Among the first of these was the line
to Hastings, now a part of the Denver route. The Lincoln and Northwestern. Railroad was constructed from Lincoln
to Columbus in 1879 and in the following year was taken over by the Burlington and Missouri River. The Missouri
Pacific constructed a line from Weeping Water to Lincoln in 1886, after receiving from the latter city the sum
of $70,000.00. A few months later the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad was completed from Lincoln
to Fremont, receiving a sum amounting to 50,000.00 from Lincoln.
In brief the roads which run into Lincoln are as follows, with the date of their completion and the miles from
their starting point to this city. The Nebraska Railway was completed June 1, 1871 from Nebraska City to Lincoln,
a distance of 58 miles. The Atchison and Nebraska Railroad was completed September 1, 1872, from Atchison, Kansas,
to Lincoln, 143 miles. The Lincoln and Northwestern constructed their line from Lincoln to Columbus completely
by May 18, 1880, covering 73 miles. The Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad commenced at Fremont on October
25, 1886, and finished through to Lincoln, taking in Wahoo, Saunders County. The Missouri Pacific was completed
from Lincoln Junction, a point near Weeping Water, to Lincoln on August 25, 1886. The Midland Pacific was finished
to Lincoln in April, 1871, and was afterwards sold to the Burlington road. The Union Pacific from Valley to Lincoln,
58 miles, was finished in 1877, and from Lincoln to Beatrice, 38 miles, in 1884. On July 13, 1892, the Chicago,
Rock Island & Pacific Railway was extended from the Missouri River to Lincoln, a distance of 57 miles, and
during the same year or next was completed from Lincoln to Belleville, Kansas, there connecting with the main line
running to Denver, Colorado. On May 7, 1893, the Rock Island depot in Lincoln was opened. The Burlington and Missouri
River depot at Lincoln was completed August 6, 1881, at a cost of $125,000.00. The building is still used by the
Burlington Road and has only been remodeled on the interior.
The Morton History of Nebraska states that in the Commonwealth of November 23. 1867, notice is given that a railroad
meeting in Lincoln "the first symptoms of Burlington dominance appeared." Also that Elder Miller thought
"the only show for the people of this county is to connect their interests with the Burlington and Missouri
Road." Resolutions were passed that the county issue $100,000.00 bonds for stock to that amount in the first
road that is completed to Lincoln.
From the same source the statement is given that in the Nebraska State Journal of May 24, 1869, there is an
account of the election in which Lancaster County voted to issue $50,000.00 in twenty year bonds, ten per cent,
to the Burlington and Missouri River Road, the same company to have trains running from the Missouri River to Lincoln
by September 30, 1870. Also voted on the question of rescinding proposition of November 3, 1868, for $110,000.00
to the first railroad to be completed to Lincoln.
In June, 1869, the citizens assisted in breaking ground for the Burlington and Missouri River Road at the "fill"
in Salt Creek bottoms. A procession was formed on Market Square in Lincoln early in the afternoon, headed by David
Butler, Thomas P. Kennard and John Gillespie, also Mr. Thielson, chief engineer of the Burlington and Missouri
River. At the spot of breaking ground a prayer was offered by H. T. Davis. Then Governor Butler turned the first
spadeful of earth, followed by Kennard and Thielson.
The State Journal in January, 1870, advertised 200,000 acres of Burlington and Missouri River lands in Saunders,
Cass and Lancaster counties. Terms were offered as follows: ten years time, interest at six per cent in advance
for two years, the principal in nine annual installments. On two years' time the land might be obtained at twenty
per cent less than the ten year price.
In April, 1870, the Burlington and Missouri River Road closed a contract for the location of a depot. The citizens
of Lincoln pledged $5,000.00 to obtain the right of way through the west part of town and the railroad company
agreed to locate their depot on grounds sold them by the state commissioners for that purpose in the bottom between
O and Q streets, west of Eighth.
By this time, 1870, the people of Lincoln began to appreciate the luxury of railroad traveL Hitherto stage journeys
were a necessity to the nearest point of railroad connection. However, the coming of railroads did not abolish
the existence of stages, for as late as August, 1870, the Kansas and Nebraska Stage Company operated stages from
Lincoln. A stage left Lincoln every morning for Nebraska City; three time a week for Beatrice, Tecumseh, Pawnee
City, Albany and Marysville, Kansas; every Monday for Camden and McFadden's; and every Friday for Seward and Ulysses.
The five trunk line railways now entering Lincoln have eighteen diverging lines, which bring the city into communication
with a vast trade territory and give distributing facilities which enable the citizens to maintan the highest selling
power. Lincoln is nearer to 774 of the 914 railroad stations in Nebraska than any other commercial center. Fully
eighty passenger trains leave Lincoln each day. Havelock is the center of the locomotive industry of the Burlington
system and at Lakeview the same road has erected one of the largest and costliest gravity freight yards and roundhouses
on its lines.